Friday is show biz night at the NHL Draft.
That’s where all the ‘he better play in the NHL, Mr. Scout’ picks are made and let’s face it, if you’re selected in the first round you should play in the world’s best hockey league or you set your franchise back.
Friday is the night you get the big show, the big walk from the stands, the big bio reveal, the big handshake with the commissioner, the big photo on stage, and the big interview.
And for pick 31 you get the big disrespect as teams fold up their books, stand up, and start to file out as soon as your name gets called.
As an aside, I’ve always found it insulting that a league where the word “respect” gets bandied often that 30 teams on draft day can’t wait an extra five minutes to give a kid who just fulfilled a lifetime dream his moment.
But I digress.
One of the more interesting things for me after the NHL Draft wraps up is pouring over the Saturday picks to see who got what, while imagining one day saying to myself “they got him that late?”
Of course, we won’t know who chose well for a few years, but still, here’s a pick in each of the rounds two through seven that has me wondering if he’ll be ‘that guy.’
Round 2 – Serron Noel, Florida Panthers: Many were shocked when the forward from the Oshawa Generals wasn’t picked in the first round, but the Panthers wasted no time scooping him up. Consistency has been an issue for Noel, but he has all the tools to become the best power forward after Andrei Svechnikov and Brady Tkachuk in this year’s draft.
Round 3 – Sampo Ranta, Colorado Avalanche: The Sioux City winger had an outside chance of sneaking in to the first round, but was certainly expected to go in the second. Has good finishing ability, nice size and isn’t shy about doing the pick + spade work to get possession.
Round 4 – Xavier Bernard, New Jersey Devils: Drummondville of the QMJHL had a heck of a first round with Nicolas Beaudin and Joe Veleno picked up by Chicago and Detroit respectively, and in the fourth the Devils tapped the Voltigeurs to come away with the 6-foot-3 defenceman. Bernard may be a project for the Devils, but he moves his feet well and has shown some offensive upside.
Round 5 – Riley Damiani, Dallas Stars: For such a young and smallish centre, Damiani has an ability to shut down opponents including top lines. And as much as we tend to focus on his defensive acumen he also pitched in 19 goals for the Kitchener Rangers this season.
Round 6 – Kevin Mandolese, Ottawa Senators: Picking up one of the top five goalies in the draft in the sixth round has to be a good feeling for the Sens. Mandolese wasn’t the most consistent this season, but has a lot of the tools that make goalies successful.
Round 7 – Marcus Westfalt, Philadelphia Flyers: A tad on the slower side, but was able to put up some numbers playing against his peer group. He finished the season in the SHL with Brynas and did not look out of place.